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eat of the loaves, and were filled." Yet immediately afterwards the people, to whom he speaks thus, say, "What sign shewest thou then that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat." The people thus appear to have forgotten the miraculous feeding as quickly and as completely as the disciples; and Jesus himself in his answer takes no farther notice of it; for instead of appealing to it as a sign already given, he merely says, that he himself is the true bread from heaven. Can any one imagine, if the miraculous feeding had really taken place, that the people would have made such an absurd demand as to require for a sign, as the condition of their believing in Jesus, the very thing which they had just witnessed, viz., the giving them bread in the desert? The same explanation occurs here as in the instance above from Matthew-that there is probably a mixture of truth and fiction in the discourses as well as in the narrative. The demand for a sign was very likely to be really made, since Josephus says, that the leaders claiming divine inspiration generally pretended to give signs from heaven; and reasons have been suggested (chap. vi) for believing that fictitious accounts of miracles were invented in later times to serve in the controversy with the opponents of the church.
When such difficulties are found to clog the narratives of Matthew and John, it seems to require a more established character for accuracy, impartiality, and freedom from the disposition to invent or exaggerate, than belongs to either of them, to compel our belief of such a story on the strength chiefly of their testimony; and the more so, when there are such obvious means of accounting for the existence of the story through that practice of exaggeration which seems to have been so common in the early church. With the exception of one verse, the 20th, Matthew's whole account seems not unnatural. Jesus was
one evening in the desert, and commanded his disciples to distribute what food they had amongst the multitude. He gave thanks on breaking the bread, as was usual among the Essenes.* In the darkness and confusion, (for, notwithstanding the command to sit down in companies, those who are used to large assemblies will imagine that the voice of twelve disciples alone could not have enforced very strict order amongst five thousand hungry men, besides women and children,) it was impossible to know how many had eaten, and how far they felt satisfied. In relating the incident afterwards, the desire to put Jesus on a level with Moses led one of the disciples, possibly John, to add that all the multitude were filled; and subsequently, in another narration, it was added, that twelve baskets-full were left. But here the fictitious parts disclose themselves by their want of coherence. The twelve baskets-full startle the reader, who involuntarily exclaims, " Where did they come from, and for what purpose?" since, up to the middle of verse 20, Matthew appears to mean that Jesus had divided only the five loaves and two fishes, and that the multitude were filled with what they had from these, giving no hint of a multiplication of the loaves, or of the appearance of fresh loaves, which one would think must have attracted the attention of the beholders, and formed one of the most striking parts of the incident. This clause concerning the quantity of the fragments seems evidently to have been added to the first story, that the people were all filled, by Matthew or some other incautious narrator, who, in his eagerness to magnify the miracle, did not stop
* "It is unlawful for any one to taste of the food before grace be said." Jos. War 2, viii. 5.
+ This addition, however, by Mark, has very much the appearance of being one of his usual amplifications upon Matthew, arising from his propensity to enter into details.
to consider whether his improvement cohered with the
The discourse in John vi. 32-58 leads us to conjecture that some figurative and poetical descriptions of Christ's doctrine, as the bread from heaven, which he distributed in the desert, being repeated, after a time, in the style of facts, contributed to the formation of the story as it now stands.
Mark relates the cure of a blind man as follows:
x. 46–52, " And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimeus, the son of Timeus, sat by the highway-side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole, or hath saved thee (σɛOWNE E). And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
The answer of Jesus is remarkable, for it does not pledge him to the instant recovery of the blind man's sight: it merely dismisses him with an undefined promise. It seems likely that the man did go away, was lost sight
*It is curious to observe the manner in which the other three treat this difficulty. Mark appears to have thought upon it, for he states very clearly that it was the five loaves and two fishes which he divided "among them all;" but on coming to the fragments, he ceases to explain so exactly, and briefly copies Matthew. Luke preserves a more prudent indistinctness, and says, "he brake and gave," without repeating "them" or "the loaves." But John gives a bolder account, and says, they distributed to the multitude as much as they would."
of in the crowd, and that the relators of the story soon amplified it with the addition, "immediately he received his sight." But it might be asked, Did any body see him afterwards? had he his sight then, and how was it known that he had been blind? These questions were fully provided for in the edition of the story published about twenty-five or thirty years later, viz., in John, ch. ix. Here, although it is admitted that the man did not immediately receive his sight, (for we are told that the man only saw after he had been to the pool of Siloam,) the account is rendered, on the whole, more marvellous by a cross-examination of the man and his parents by the Pharisees. That John refers to the same transaction may be gathered from these parts: verse 1, "And as Jesus passed by"... ver. 7, the pool of Siloam implies that it was near Jerusalem ver. 8, "The neighbours said, Is not this he that sat and begged?"--which all agrees with Mark. Verse 6, Verse 6," He anointed his eyes with clay," contradicts Mark, but it agrees with Matthew xx. 34, "He touched their eyes," plainly a parallel passage to that in Mark, although Matthew has made two blind men, for the speeches and circumstances coincide almost literally. Luke has inserted Mark's account with little variation, except that he makes the affair happen as Jesus went unto Jericho, instead of going from it; and he adds, that “ all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God."
Now, the whole account in Mark has nothing miraculous, except the clause contradicted by John, that the man immediately received his sight. Admitting John's account of the cross-examination by the Pharisees to be true, and the affair is difficult to explain, except by supposing a real miracle or a contrived imposture. But all the dialogue added by John is no more than what might occur to a man of moderate invention, zealous to answer objections, and, as he himself declares, to make the
church believe, xx. 31. And under this view all diffi
Matthew relates, ix. 27, another story of the blind men. cure of two blind men, after that of Jairus's daughter. Now, as Mark says nothing of these blind men after relating the same story of Jairus's daughter, and as parts of Matthew's two stories coincide with each other exactly, ("And as Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us"-xx. 30," And behold two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David!") it seems most likely that Matthew here also relates the same story two different ways. Thus, for one cure of one blind man in Mark, there are two cures of two blind men in Matthew.
Matthew relates the story of a centurion's servant or child, πα15,* viii. 5—-13, which ends child. thus: "And Jesus said, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour." Luke says, vii. 10, " And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well that had been sick." And John, in a story which has so many points of agreement with Matthew's that it seems to be founded on the same incident, says, iv. 51-53, " And as he was now going down,
* From the ambiguity of this word, different versions of the story were likely to arise. Luke fixes the sense to "servant," by changing the word for douλos. But John uses Matthew's word Tais, ver. 51, and gives it the meaning "child" by substituting, at ver. 46, vios, son.
† John says that this was the second miracle done by Jesus when he was come out of Judea into Galilee; Matthew puts it near the beginning of Jesus's public progress. Both agree that the patient lay at Capernaum. Matthew says the applicant was